Connor’s Year-End 2021 Round Up

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it fifty times–2021 was a banner year for heavy music, and especially full length records. Just about every conventional style of metalcore and a couple different styles of deathcore had genre-defining, standard-setting records come out this year, which made it truly exceptional for fans of the almighty breakdown. But more than that, this article rounds up the best EPs, biggest let downs, worst records and more!

Let’s kick things off with the list many people have already seen–the best albums of 2021 list, starting with some honorable mentions and ending with the cream of the crop–2021’s five best records.

Honorable Mentions:

Exorcised Gods – Banished into Conflagration (Slamming Deathcore)
Drake – Certified Lover Boy (Hip-Hop)
Spiritbox – Eternal Blue (progressive metalcore)
Born of Osiris – Angel or Alien (Progressive metalcore)
Cognitive – Malevolent Thoughts of a Hastened Extinction (Technical Death Metal/Deathcore)
Cannibal Corpse – Violence Unimagined (Death Metal)
200 Stab Wounds – Slave to the Scalpel (Slamming Death Metal)
Existence Has Failed – Birthrite (Deathcore)

2021 was a wild year for records, and all of these were really special releases in one way or another! This is among the highest death metal has ever been on my radar—and until 2021, I really wouldn’t have even called myself a Cannibal Corpse fan (at one point, both of those records were in my top 20). Despite a record laden with pure heat, Born of Osiris just barely got eked out. Even Drake—an artist I shamelessly adore—got beat out when he dropped songs that have been on repeat for months (although this was one of his less memorable records). In a year where really all of my top 50 could have been juggled into my top 25, these several records stood out the most among those that didn’t make the cut.

25. Ice Nine Kills : Welcome to Horrorwood: The Silver Scream 2 (Metalcore)
This record is pure fun. Yeah, it’s corny. Yeah, it’s campy. Yeah, a couple of the songs don’t really work, but at the end of the day, 90% of this record is catchy, themed metalcore that leaves a smile on the listener’ face. If it weren’t for “Rainy Day,” this record would have stacked up even higher. While a lot of people are quick to write them off because of their lyrical themes, it’s silly to do so—they’re a refreshingly fun band in a time where everyone seems so intent on being all business all the time.
Recommended Tracks: “Welcome to Horrorwood,” “The Shower Scene,” “Funeral Derangements.”

24. Dying Wish – Fragments of a Bitter Memory (Metalcore)
I don’t think Dying Wish were ready for how much this record would explode. This is your high school metalcore record turned up to ten, in simple terms. Nothing groundbreaking, but between the nostalgia and aggression, there’s a lot to love. When I first heard it, I didn’t really get the same immediate love for the record so many did—but it grew on me, even while I think there’s still room for improvement. Ultimately, I think the band would have benefited from adding some updated, unique flare to the record, but for a trip down memory lane, it’s hard to ask for better.
Recommended Tracks: “Cowards Feed, Cowards Thirst,” “Now You’ll Rot,” “Enemies in Red.”

23. Osiah – Loss (Deathcore)
Osiah are one of my favorite come-up stories. The band’s debut demo was an example of deathcore defined by contrasting extremes: obliterating breakdowns with insanely fast drumming and an incredible vocal spectrum. As they matured, they moved from fun-but-gimmickly to thoroughly oppressive. Loss is example of their continued rise, still incorporating stupidly heavy elements into a more metallic and refined backbone—while it may not be as off-the-wall as Terror Firma, it still stands as an excellent addition to their discography
Recommended Tracks: “Terracide Compulsion,” “The Eye of the Swarm,” “Temporal Punishment.”

22. MØL – Diorama (Black Metal/Blackgaze)
Well, we’ve officially reached the part in my list where most people are a little surprised AND we get my one token not-core band. I’ll be honest—I only checked out MØL because a PR firm and agent I really trust wouldn’t stop tweeting about the record. Turns out they were right to be so emphatic—Diorama made big waves for this young act, and rightfully so. More energetic and engaging than the genre would suggest, MØL are truly hard to compare to other bands—but Diorama is definitely worth the listen and foray into unfamiliar territory.
Recommended Tracks: “Photophobic,” “Redacted,” “Diorama”

21. Phinehas- The Fire Itself (metalcore)
2021 was a banner year for metalcore—in fact I’d say that several records this year really redefined the genre and it’s various sub-genres. One such record was The Fire Itself. Laden with riffs, bountiful with bouncy breakdowns and soaring choruses, Phinehas sound like everything I really WISH bands like August Burns Red or Wolves at the Gate sounded like. Blending just enough technicality to lend depth to their dynamic, Phinehas wrote a true cracker of a record, and while I didn’t find myself revisiting it as often as I’d like to justify a higher ranking, this record is definitely worth experiencing.
Recommended Tracks: “Thorns,” “Holy Coward,” “The Fire Itself”

20. Frontierer – Oxidized (mathcore)
When it comes to spasticity and eccentric, hyper aggressive music, one band ran away with it this year: Frontierer. Somehow slightly more structured than the band’s prior record, Oxidized is a dense slice of mathcore mastery. While it can be a little ambitious to take on in one sitting, Frontierer are one of those bands that truly make you wonder HOW their music was written—and how they can ever hope to replicate it. In short, it sounds a little like being stuck inside a TI-89 graphing calculator that’s being run in someone’s clothes washer alongside two M-80 machine guns.
Recommended Tracks: “Corrosive Wash,” “This Magnetic Drift,” “Southern Hemorrhage.”

19. Flesh of the Lotus – Flesh of the Lotus (deathcore)
Every year I gotta get on my soapbox: stop making album-of-the-year lists in November. While this year, December was a little slower than in years past, I guarantee I know at least 20 people who either omitted this from their list because they jumped the gun, or who missed this incredible record altogether. If you like straight up bouncy, heavy, bass-drop-y deathcore, this is THE record you want to spend some time with.
Recommended Tracks: “Intro,” “213,” “Junkie”

18. Bound in Fear – Penance (downtempo deathcore)
I know a lot of people get their rocks off by hating on downtempo, but I’ll readily admit that I miss those Halcyon days of 2011-2016 where low and slow was the law. Evidently, I’m not the only one. Bound in Fear started as a band committed to the breakdown, and while they may not be as focused on the downtempo style as they used to, they still fit the bill just fine. With an impressive array of guest vocalists, and a couple tracks that branch into more atmospheric and experimental territory, Penance is Bound in Fear’s redemption after the otherwise lackluster Eternal EP that kickstarted 2021.
Recommended Tracks: “Penance” “Scar Of Man,” “Cutthroat.”

17. Vulvodynia – Praenuntius Infiniti (slamming death metal, technical deathcore)
A band with a sprawling discography—and an impressive rise from incredibly humble beginnings—Vulvodynia have never sounded better than they do on Praenuntius Infiniti. A conceptual release that follows the rise and fall of a galaxy-devouring God-beast (and it’s innocent victim, Bob), the band somehow managed to step up their deathcore AND slamming influences to create a stunning amalgam of technicality and aggression. Running the better part of an hour, Praenuntius Infiniti is, again, maybe a little overzealous for a one-take listen, the more refined and mature Vulvodynia gave us much of the best work of their career on their 2021 release.
Recommended Tracks: “The Shadowy Descent of Gaia,” “A Cosmic Betrayal” “Decidial Finality.”

16. ERRA – ERRA (progressive metalcore)
I had totally forgotten how long it had been since we’d heard from ERRA until they broke their silence in 2020 with the first single from their self-titled comeback. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that this record is their best to date—with heavier cuts as satisfying as the mellow album closers, and arguably their best, least stereotypically “djent” lyricism yet (although still a little work to go there). Not to mention, ERRA are still home to one of the best vocal duos the genre has—and they remind the listener of that every chance they get on their self titled release.
Recommended tracks: “Snowblood,” “Shadow Autonomous,” “Eidolon”

15. Darko US – Darko (Experimental Deathcore)
Perhaps one of the best things to come from the pandemic is the “leave at my door” option on Doordash or Postmates. Right behind that would be the experimental, progressive and darkly groovy super-duet Darko. Where the Dethmask EP was a short, gritty look at the band’s most primal form, their debut full length offering is a widely varied, incredibly diverse and exceptionally immersive experience. Loaded with explosive heaviness and ethereal calm, there really isn’t a lot NOT to love on Darko’s 2021 effort—for just about any fan of heavy music. At this point in the countdown, its tiny details that separate artists between #15 and #14, 13, 12…you get the point—if it weren’t such a highly competitive year, Darko’s self-titled release would have charted within the top ten easy.
Recommended Tracks: “Donna,” “Splinter Cell,” “Mars Attacks!”

14. Signs of the Swarm – Absolvere (Deathcore/Slamming Deathcore)
Speaking of the highly competitive nature of this year’s album countdown, let’s talk about how even some GREAT bands with the BEST work of their catalogue even fell outside the top ten—case in point: Signs of the Swarm. To be totally frank, based off my first couple listens through Absolvere, I wasn’t sold—it seemed to lack bite and stopping power—however, the more time I spent with it, the more I realized what a truly artistic mastery Signs of the Swarm did when it came to melding metallic refinement into a ruthless, slamming and sinister backbone. While it might not have the corny charm as their earlier works, Absolvere remains immensely heavy in its own right—and sees the band more willing to take risks with their sound, which ultimately yield huge payoffs. Surprisingly, Alex Erian’s guest spot was probably my LEAST favorite part of the whole record, which I never thought I would say.
Recommended Tracks: “Totem,” “Nameless,” “Revelations Ov a Silent King.”

13. Silent Planet – Iridescent (Progressive Metalcore)
Silent Planet are one of those bands I really didn’t fall in love with at first. Sure, they were fun, heavy and lyrically intriguing, but I kind of shrugged them off. With each new record they’ve released, I’ve gone back and fallen more in love with their back catalogue—and, of course, with whatever album they happened to have been releasing at the time. After their last release, I was full aboard the hype train, which is good, because there’s no way it would have slowed down long enough to let me on with Iridescent. Their most pummeling and intense release to date, Iridescent is as impactful lyrically as it is instrumentally—and in a time where everyone seems to have a message or a soapbox, Silent Planet’s is truly worth not only hearing, but listening to.
Recommended Tracks: “Translate the Night,” “Alive, as a Housefire,” “Iridescent.”

12. Vildhjarta – Masstaden Under Vatten (Thall/Progressive Metalcore)
When Vildhjarta first broke onto the scene, I didn’t appreciate them as I should have—I’ll admit it. It wasn’t until I was digging deep one afternoon, slacking on college work some time in 2013 that I felt compelled to dive into their work; ever since then, I’ve been waiting for Masstaden Under Vatten. While I was apprehensive about the beast’s sheer length, this release is somehow…less dense than some works of their peers, though it runs more than double the time. Inventive in its use of sonic obliteration, Vildhjarta are vicious with this barn-burner of a record, absolutely demanding every second of respect—and attention—that they’re owed.
Recommended Tracks: “Toxin,” “Sunset Sunrise Sunset Sunrise,” “Penny Royal Poison.”

11. The Home Team – Slow Bloom (pop-punk/alt-rock/post-hardcore)
I love The Home Team because even as they foray into more poppy territory, you can still tell a couple deathcore old heads are hiding away in this band. This is THE catchiest record of the year and I will gladly die on that hill—with a series of stellar music videos and awesome imagery to even further cement each single into your subconscious. This is ten-plus songs of supremely catchy post-hardcore infused pop-rock. Don’t sleep.
Recommended Tracks: “Right Through Me,” “Slow Bloom,” “Who Do You Know Here?”

10. Brand of Sacrifice – Lifeblood (Technical Deathcore)
In so many words, Brand of Sacrifice took 2021 by storm. Forever a promising band but always teetering on the cusp of greatness, Brand of Sacrifice took criticisms of their lukewarm Godhand to heart and fell oblong into the realm of Deathcore stardom. Crushing, catchy, technical and anthemic all in one, Lifeblood finds itself among the apex predators of contemporary heavy music. While two interlude-type tracks make the full-length feel ever-so-slightly-less full, and only certain key tracks kept me coming back all year long, those two ever so slight hiccups were truly all that kept Lifeblood from being a true album of the year.
Recommended Tracks: “Foe of the Inhuman,” “Lifeblood,” “Demon King.”

9. Sleep Waker – Alias (Metalcore/Progressive Metalcore)
When Sleep Waker hinted at a stylistic change on Alias, I admit—I was definitely nervous. Sleep Waker were among the precious few who I considered to blend nu metal and metalcore seamlessly, and, thusly, a change was disconcerting to say the least. It turns out Alias was definitely different—but not in respects to the perfect manner in which Sleep Waker blend the aforementioned styles of heavy music. Alias feels very bright—neon, pastel and vividly futuristic—all while managing to be dauntingly aggressive. Where several bands have overtly attempted to capitalize on the ultra-technologic amalgam of vaguely industrial nu metal and pummeling metalcore, Sleep Waker are truly the only band I consider to have succeeded—and Alias is a monstrous testament to that.
Recommended Tracks: “Melatonin”, “Synthetic Veins”, “ALIAS”

8. Spirit Breaker – Cura Nata (Progressive Metalcore)
While it fits nicely, I promise its not by intention that Sleep Waker and Spirit Breaker are neighbors in the yearly round-up—although they definitely have their fair share of similarities. Both from Michigan, both progressive in nature and both pushing the limits of contemporary metalcore, these bands deserve the attention they’ve garnered. On Cura Nata, Spirit Breaker are undoubtedly the most true form of themselves to date. The record is ruthless in its raw, emotional honesty—and the grooves and breakdowns aren’t anything to laugh at either. Spirit Breaker pulled no punches, and while definitely took plenty of TLC to complete, Cura Nata is without a doubt one for the record books.
Recommended Tracks: “A Cure For Wellness,” “Flauros,” “The Mountain Between Us.”

7. Every Time I Die – Radical (Southern Metalcore/Chaotic Hardcore)
What is there to say about Every Time I Die that hasn’t already been said? Probably not too much. With Radical, Every Time I Die not only brought me back to the first time I heard Hot Damn! And Gutter Phenomenon, but they do it WELL. With their last two releases, I was a little concerned that the band were on an imminent decline—but on Radical, they’re at their all time best. With a full hour of Keith Buckley et al doing what they do best, I expected to be overwhelmed or bored—but the contrary was true, I was instead engrossed.
Recommended tracks: “Dark Distance,” “Desperate Pleasures,” “sexsexsex.”

6. SeeYouSpaceCowboy – The Romance of Affliction (post-hardcore, metalcore, sass)
This one was another unexpected gem of 2021. While SYSC have always been an excellent band, they never really dug their claws in me until The Romance of Affliction. A nostalgic-sounding record that still takes fun risks amid splashes of contemporary fervor, this is what Drop Dead, Gorgeous or From First to Last would sound like if they kept doing what they were doing and maybe hung out a bit with HeavyheavyLowLow and Duck Duck Goose. Mathy at times, heavy, rambunctious, catchy and emotional all in one, SeeYouSpaceCowboy easily leapt from “band I think is cool” to “one of the best, freshest and most fun bands, all with one 35 minute record.
Recommended Tracks: “Ouroboros as an Overused Metaphor,” “Life as a Soap Opera, 26 Years Running” and “Melodrama Between Two Entirely Bored Individuals.”

5. Degrader – Beautiful Lie (Metalcore)
Metalcore had an incredible year for all of its various types and styles—pound for pound, my list this year honestly probably has more metalcore than anything else. When it comes to straight up, no-holds-barred, no-filler metalcore, Degrader’s Beautiful Lie sets a new standard of excellence within the genre. In plain honesty, every record in my top 5—and even many in my top 10—do that, and several other strong contenders for archetypal metalcore also came out in 2021, but none so strong as Degrader’s breakout full length. Groovy, catchy, raw-yet-polished-enough and poignantly poetic, Beautiful Lie is a bold and beautiful example of everything metalcore in its purest form should be. Full stop.
Recommended Tracks: “Des Vu,” “Yu Yi,” “Odogaron,” “Opia.”

4. Sentinels – Collapse by Design (Progressive Metalcore)
If Beautiful Lie was the new flagship for metalcore, Collapse By Design is the flagship for its progressive brother. Sentinels have always been an extraordinary band, but on their 2021 full length, they make everything they’ve ever made look like child’s play. Collapse By Design is a dizzying display of technical brilliance matched with ethereal beauty—and, to be honest, it makes me feel the same way I felt the first time I ever listened to Struc/tures’ All of the Above or Divided By. Each song is a marvel of metalcore songwriting, just as it is a stupendous example of stellar instrumental skill and vocal dynamism. It is an overwhelming testament to the strength of Sentinels as musicians, and also a great example of a progressive release that doesn’t have to dj0nt to hit hard.
Recommended Tracks: “Inertia,” “Albatross,” “Tyrant,” “Atlas.”

3. Crown Magnetar – The Codex of Flesh (Deathcore/Technical Deathcore)
While metalcore might have gotten a lot of attention so far, make no mistake—deathcore is really my true love (or maybe it’s mathcore? Or downtempo? I don’t know, just keep reading). Crown Magnetar’s debut EP was one I checked out on a whim—and while impressive, honestly, didn’t stick as a long-term favorite for me. When I first heard The Codex of Flesh, however, that changed entirely. This is everything a Deathcore record should be, cranked up to near intolerable levels of perfection. The drums? Crazy fast. The guitars? Abysmally low. The riffs? Chunky. The vocals? Mind-melting. Crown Magnetar have made an outstandingly well-rounded deathcore release that, in my mind, should be for the new generation of deathcore what Oceano’s Depths or Suicide Silence’s The Cleansing was for the 2010s era of Deathcore.
Recommended Tracks: “Saprophytic,” “Black Lotus,” “Full Spectrum Hatred,” “The Codex of Flesh.”

2. Kaonashi – Dear Lemon House, You Ruined Me: Senior Year (Emotional Mathcore? Emo/Mathcore/Post-Hardcore/Metalcore)
I wrote a long (and fairly convincing) review about how Kaonashi make me feel and why I think they deserve the whole world—but if you didn’t read it, let me catch you up in a brief paragraph. Dear Lemon House (for short) manages to take someone like me—a suburban white kid with a relatively mundane life and origin story—and put me in shoes of Jamie B. Moore, an African-American high-school kid struggling with identity crises, heartbreak, suicidal ideation, bullies, a pesky school counselor…you get it. Kaonashi manage to make the listener into the underdog, regardless of their background, which makes their tales of heartbreak, self-loathing and desperation all the more relatable. Oh—and the instrumentation is top notch too. There really isn’t anything to fault on this record at all, and for a while I contemplated doing a tie for my AOTY (realistically, a tie is probably fair). Kaonashi, over the course of several years, went from being a band I was, at best, ambivalent about, to a band I feel like I can’t live without—and despite those high expectations, Dear Lemon House managed to shatter them.
Recommended Tracks: “T.A.Y.L.O.R.,” “A Night of Moving Picture with Scooter Corkle,” “Fuck Temple University,” “The Underdog Pt. III: Exit Pt. IV (A Self-Fulfilling Prophecy).”

  1. VCTMS – Volume IV: Numb the Ache (Metalcore/Nu-Metalcore)
    This might be stacking the deck a little—having heard Volume IV before 2021 had even started, I figured this would probably be my 2021 AOTY. While it came close a couple times (Kaonashi, Degrader, Sentinels and Crown Magnetar all made me question it at one point or another), ultimately, no other ranking felt right without VCTMS at the top. Every component of this release felt as though it was written explicitly FOR me—the mellow tracks feel just right blended in with a backbone of bold, hard-as-nails cuts, and the lyrics are so relatable, I could almost be convinced I’d written them in a fever dream or something. Obviously I KNOW I didn’t—but this record connected with me in such a profound way its hard to even articulate. Anyhow, on a more objective note, VCTMS is both their most mature and primal selves on Volume IV, with the instrumentation and production both taking huge steps up from the already stellar work on Volume III. VCTMS’ 2021 release is a masterwork of emotive, intense, nu-metal-infused metalcore that uses diversity as its secret weapon to keep listeners engaged and coming back for more—because even if at first the lighter tracks don’t seem as enticing as the raunchy breakdowns and scathing screams, they end up being some of the listener’s favorites.
    Recommended Tracks: “What Doesn’t Kill You,” “Hell is Other People,” “Anger//Set” “Suddenly Everything Changed.”

2021 was also a strong year for EPs, although it definitely hammered home the notion that quantity doesn’t always mean quality. While there were many more than 25 EPs released throughout the year, I genuinely had a hard time finding 25 I enjoyed–meaning releases like those from Invent Animate and Katabasis, which were so short I didn’t truly consider them standalone EPs, ultimately had to be brought into the fold. Fear not, however, as each of these releases ended up on this list for a damn good reason,

25. Desolate – The Fate of Destruction is the Joy of Rebirth (Nu-Metalcore)

24. Carnis Immortalis – The Ecstasy of Death (Death Metal)
23. Visceral Autopsy – It Never Ends Well: Volume I (Nu-Metalcore)
22. Sunspear – Redacted (Metalcore)
21. The Voynich Code – Post Mortem (Progressive Deathcore)
20. Katabasis – Bastards Sing, Bastards Cry (Metalcore)
19. Thirteen Bled Promises – Foundation (Deathcore/Death Metal)
18. Impending Doom – Hellbent (Deathcore)
17. Resist the Thought – Renaissance (Deathcore)
16. Ov Sulfur – Oblivion (Deathcore)
15. Vyletongue – Morose (Deathcore)
14. If I Die First – They Drew Blood (Post-Hardcore)
13. Funeral Wake – For the Forlorn Few (Blackened Deathcore)
12. Decayer – Pestilence (Deathcore)
11. Convictions – I Won’t Survive (Metalcore)
10. Monasteries – Silence (Technical Deathcore)
9. Left to Suffer – ON DEATH (Deathcore/Nu Metalcore)
8. Invent Animate – The Sun Sleeps, As If It Never Was (Progressive Metalcore)
7. Reflections – Silhouette (Metalcore/Progressive Metalcore/Thall)
6. Struc/tures – None of the Above (Progressive Metalcore)
5. SeeYouSpaceCowboy/If I Die First – A Sure Disaster (Metalcore/Post-Hardcore/Mathcore/Sass)
4. The Devil Wears Prada – ZII (Metalcore)
3. Like Moths to Flames – Pure Like Porcelain (Metalcore)
2. Knocked Loose – A Tear in the Fabric of Life (Metalcore)

  1. Lorna Shore – …And I Return to Nothingness (Blackened Deathcore): Lorna Shore truly needs no explanation–a band that released the finest blackened deathcore record of all time with Immortal managed to overcome immesurable odds, kick out an insufferable dickweed and release a three track EP that eclipses just about all else. Lorna Shore are THE band to eyeball going into 2022.

Then, we have the…not so great. Or rather, the SO disappointing.

To earn this title, the record has to be…well, disappointing. This implies that it was a record I had otherwise high (or even moderate) expectations of which didn’t really…deliver. Fortunately, none of my most disappointing records ended up at the top of my “worst” record list, but some were…pretty close.

3. Our Hollow, Our Home – Burn in the Flood (Metalcore)
These guys were a HUGE love of mine with their debut effort—and their follow-up, Hartsick, was certainly above average as well. On Burn in the Flood, however, the band abandoned the gritty, bouncy and groovy nature of their previous records in favor of something more heavily infused with arena rock and a newer, more commercially viable brand of metalcore I’ve nicknamed “arena metalcore.” Everything feels artificial and cold, with any of the vivacity and risk-taking nature of their previous two records almost totally forsaken. After listening to this one once, I never bothered to try it out again.

2. Slaughter to Prevail – Kostolom (Nu Metal/Deathcore)
This one pains me. Since before the release of their debut EP, I have been an avid fan of Slaughter to Prevail—and while their debut full length was maybe a touch underwhelming, It was forgivably so. Then, “Agony” and “Demolishor” were released as singles and I had hope for another absolutely raunchy release from these ruthless Russians. My hope was squandered. Kostolom feels more like a nu metal record with some blast beats than it does a deathcore release—and while Alex Terrible’s vocal range remains impressive, it doesn’t salvage the fact that between nearly an hour of music, there are maybe three songs worth revisiting. I WILL say the only reason this record didn’t take 2021’s most disappointing (and how it managed to avoid the worst record list) was that “Head on a Plate” is an absolute banger. With all this said, I’m at least glad Slaughter to Prevail are successful—they’re hard working, and any band that can bring more of a spotlight to heavy music is ultimately okay with me.

  1. Filth – The Ignorance (Downtempo Deathcore): If my disappointment in Slaughter to Prevail pained me, this one damn near kills me. Filth have been a band I’ve adored since their inception—and they’re one of dangerously few bands still unabashedly playing relentlessly heavy, low and slow deathcore. Coming right on the heels of an incredibly strong EP with a lead single that was insanely fun, I had high hopes for The Ignorance—but you guessed it, they proved perhaps too high to live up to. With this release, Filth make a more focused effort to branch out and incorporate more atmospheric elements into the mix—but instead of providing variety, it really only comes across as boring. The bite, sting and burn from their lyrics and jarring breakdowns all feel dulled, if not totally absent, and short of some memorable moments at the opening and closing ends of the record, much of the material Filth provide on The Ignorance is almost totally forgettable. Even the token moments of absurd heaviness fall short not only in the scheme of their discography, but generally speaking as well. Filth have always been a band that could be counted on to bring the bouncy, brutalizing heaviness with a shit-eating grin, but this time, the only thing they really brought was a lifetime supply of Ambien and a couple cool breakdowns.

Other disappointing entries:
Wage War – Manic (Metalcore)
Reason: Wage War made one of the worst fall-off records in modern metalcore, dropped two singles that make it seem like they were back on track…and then released a record with everything from cringey rap verses to a diet Seether cut.
A Night In Texas – The Divine Dichotomy (Deathcore)
Reason: A Night In Texas are laden with potential, but turns out their real skill is making 20 songs sound like one, long, boring song.
Mirrors – The Ego’s Weight (Metalcore)
Reason: These fellas came off of an exciting EP, released some strong singles, and then followed them up with an album I genuinely forgot even came out this year.
Mental Cruelty – A Hill to Die Upon (Blackened Deathcore)
Reason: Imagine being a strong slamming deathcore act, switching styles overnight to try and jock Lorna Shore’s success, release an album that is drenched with proof of clout-chasing genre-hopping…and then getting literally obliterated in quality by a three-song EP by the same band you tried to dick ride. In all seriousness, this record wasn’t BAD, it just felt phoned in considering their back catalogue felt so much more sincere.

What about records that weren’t disappointing, but were rather just bad? Two come to mind when it comes to picking the worst of the worst in 2021.

Runner Up: TheCityIsOurs – COMA
I’m all for the MySpace nostalgia, and I love me a good synth-lead breakdown—but TheCityIsOurs attempt electro-pop tinted, ultra produced style of metalcore in a way that falters before it can truly ever get off the ground. The choruses aren’t catchy, the vocals are, at best, out of place—and at worst grating on the ears—and the flow and songwriting within each song feels disjointed, lending an underwhelming and unfinished atmosphere to COMA. There is maybe a time—a long time ago, mind you—that I would have been able to look past these faults for the cheeky breakdowns, but that time has definitely passed, if it was ever really there at all; ultimately, TheCityIsOurs make me want to first-hand experience a coma before I’d ever want to slog through theirs again.

Worst album of the year: Whitechapel – Kin
If you follow me at all on any social media platform, you’ve heard my sound off on this band and this record. Whitechapel are a band, who, at their very very best are boring—and at their worst are Kin. The only good thing I can say about Kin is the drumming, courtesy of their now-ex studio percussionist, as well as Bozeman’s lyricism being at least better than the zero-calorie attempts at gore that littered the lyric booklets of Whitechapel’s early work (which at least gets a pass based on the band’s namesake). With that out of the way, there’s the issue of the decline in intriguing songwriting, with the biggest culprit residing in the split-personality Whitechapel have tried to maintain. Their softer side sounds ever so slightly more genuine, but still lacks interest or anything of value beyond a superficial listen; afterwards, it falls flat, if it ever really was able to stand on its own. What’s worse is that the heaviness the band is known for now sounds so desperately contrived and desperate it’s hard to even give a pity listen for the breakdowns that eventually show up. It’s copy-paste riffing with Bozeman’s solid-but-bored voice in an endless cycle of “fill out the runtime in this song before Phil can sing another C-tier post-grunge ballad.” In short, Whitechapel’s Kin is an impotent, limp-dicked record that took whatever passing interest I had in the band after over a decade of being unimpressed and near-literally drenched it in piss.

Some other memorable accomplishments to mark off in 2021 come in the way of best single and best breakdown–read on for more.

Best Breakdown of 2021:

“The Devil Wears Fendi” – Newcomer
“6” – Struc/tures
“Yu Yi” – Degrader
“Saprophytic” – Crown Magnetar
Winner: “To The Hellfire” by Lorna Shore
Reason: It’s a cop out choice, in part, but it’s also the obvious choice for a reason. When that final breakdown made its way onto social media, the entire heavy music community collectively shit themselves. I can hardly recall another time heavy music made such an impact outside of its usual sphere—be it TikTok fame or otherwise. Plus, in a time where vocal acrobatics are the norm in deathcore, Will Ramos managed to set a new standard for “wait, what the Hell was that?”

And best single goes to…

“Body and Soul” – Orthodox
Reason: What a great band. I wasn’t actually in love with this song until I saw them live, and now it lives rent free in my head.
“Sacrifice” – The Devil Wears Prada
Reason: I was really a little worried that TDWP were only jumping back to heavier roots for the Zombie sequel (not that The Act was bad), but when this dropped shortly thereafter, I felt a rush of relief and excitement. I’m beyond excited to see what 2022 holds for this band.
Best single of the year: “Made to Please” – Spite
Reason: I’ve always loved Spite. I will always love Spite—but that doesn’t mean I can’t be a little critical. Where The Root of All Evil was an outstanding record, it definitely felt a little flat in spots compared to their other material—especially over hundreds of listens. Then, the band went the longest they’ve EVER been without releasing anything so much as hinting at new material (short of some photos from the studio here and there). Then “Made to Please” drops and even people who didn’t like Spite start to like Spite. This single is the freshest they’ve sounded since their obliterating self-titled release, and a hint at nothing but huge things to come.